US consulate in Chengdu lowers flag ahead of closure

Beijing, Jul 27 (efe-epa).- The United States Consulate General in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu on Monday lowered its flag a few hours before the deadline for its closure, ordered by Beijing Friday in response to the shuttering of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas.

The consulate pulled down the US flag at 06.18 am local time (22:18 GMT on Sunday), according to images broadcast on state television CCTV, before the established closing time of 10.00 am (02.00 GMT).

Traffic was cut off around the consulate and police have put in place strict security measures to prevent incidents, according to local media.

The state broadcaster also showed images of US officials leaving the consulate overnight amid a police cordon.

Cranes carrying containers, and trucks moving around could be seen in the morning in front of the main entrance of the diplomatic legation, while some people gathered to watch, the official Global Times reported.

Since the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the closure of the US consulate on Friday, there have been no notable incidents, except for one person who sang a Chinese nationalist song on Saturday outside the building and another who set off firecrackers a day earlier.

The Chengdu consulate was opened in 1985 by then-president George H. W. Bush, and employs about 200 people – 150 of them local workers – who covered Tibet, among other regions in southwest China.

A day after the US announced the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Beijing responded by ordering “the termination of all operations” of the US consular office in Chengdu, capital of the central Sichuan province.

The foreign ministry said it was “a legitimate and necessary response” against the “unjustified action by the US” to order the closure of its consulate in Houston, which Washington defends by claiming that it seeks “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information,” although China denies that the office has stolen intellectual property.

“The relationship between the two countries is not what China would like, but Washington is responsible for it,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that its response is “in line with international law, the basic rules that govern international relations and diplomatic practices” since, in its opinion, the action taken by Washington broke all these rules.

Foreign spokesman Wang Wenbin went a step further hours later, claiming that US diplomats sent to Chengdu are involved in “activities inconsistent” with their mission, and that China has in the past filed multiple complaints about it.

The spat has brought the already deteriorating relations between the two great world powers to one of their worst moments in decades.

This adds to the exchange of accusations for the origin and management of COVID-19, the technological and trade war, the recrimination regarding the new Hong Kong security law and the human rights situation of Muslim minorities in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang. EFE-EPA


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